Gold Miners Come Clean on Costs After Lost 6 Years
Comment of the Day

February 27 2013

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Gold Miners Come Clean on Costs After Lost 6 Years

This article by Liezel Hill for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section
“I don't think the industry has done anything to persuade some of those investors that hold, for example, gold ETFs to buy gold shares instead,” said Neil Gregson, who manages about $5 billion in natural resources equities at JPMorgan Asset Management in London. “Our allocation to gold equities is now down to 20 percent, which is the lowest we've been certainly since I've been here in the last 2 1/2 years.”

To be sure, while the gold industry has traditionally emphasized cash-cost figures, the other components of all-in costs were available in financial reports, Gregson said. Gold companies have diverged since the 1990s in terms of which cost items they included, Goldcorp CEO Chuck Jeannes said in a Feb. 25 interview.

“What we are trying to do is bring back some predictability and rigor,” he said. There's still no universal agreement on the new all-in costs. Members of the World Gold Council, a London-based industry group, are working on issues such as how to treat byproduct revenue, interest expenses and profits on energy hedges, said Agnico-Eagle Mines Ltd. CEO Sean Boyd.

Eoin Treacy's view My view – The attempts of gold miners to improve their standards of corporate governance are laudable but the adage “are they closing the barn door after the horse has bolted?” comes to mind. The ability of physically backed ETFs to reliably track the price of gold has been a major factor in their appeal. Miners on the other hand have failed to offer optionality on the gold price while concerns relating to management, labour, energy, ore grades and political turmoil remain relevant. If they are to succeed in luring investors they will need to demonstrate more than a short-term commitment to higher standards of governance and greater openness on costs.

An additional issue for the gold miners is that because they are susceptible to falls in the gold price, they tend to deteriorate more on reactions than they rise during rallies. The NYSE Arca Gold Bugs Index broke down to new reaction lows three weeks ago and while oversold relative to the 200-day MA, a break in the five-month progression of lower rally highs would be required to check supply dominance.

Despite a generally weak tone across the Index's constituents, Randgold Resources and Yamana Gold have both pulled back to potential areas of support and have at least steadied. While more is required to confirm a return of demand at $80 and $14 respectively, these two shares represent some of the most encouraging price action in the sector. A considerable number of others are deeply oversold but a significant revival in gold prices is likely required to act as a catalyst for short covering.

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